By Dominik Stallings
Would you know how to flip over a rug while standing on it and without touching the floor? How about directing four other people to do so? It seems silly at first, but this exercise was a lesson to show Tuscola students how important leadership is – and how difficult it is to be a leader.
“When you want to empower a group of people, you give them a goal,” said U.S. Army veteran Brad Ingram.
Ingram’s goal was clear; He wanted to educate the younger generations and give them an idea of what leadership looks like.
Ingram started the exercise during the Veteran’s Day assembly Nov. 11, in the Tuscola High School gym with a group of 20 students. Coaches at the assembly gathered students who were interested in the exercise and split them into four groups. Each group decided on one leader.
They quickly went to work and figured out the best way to flip their rugs without touching the floor. Ingram said the exercise is very similar to the familiar game “ Don’t touch the lava.”
Ingram asked the leader of the winning group for insight into how they won the friendly contest. Students had three main takeaways: Encouragement, strategy planning and communication. Those three points aligned themselves with the rest of Ingram’s interactive assembly.
Ingram asked the audience what it meant to be a good boss or a bad one. Two of Ingram’s children, Benjamin and Elijah, handed out candy to members of the audience who participated in the discussion.
“Leadership doesn’t come with a title,” said Ingram. “Together, is how we all solve a problem.”
There were a couple of recurring themes that came from those who spoke up: Education, goals, empathy, positive environments, and being a role model.
“You have to be the person everyone wants to be,” said Ingram. “The goal of leadership is to have people become the better version of themselves.”
Interacting with the community and especially a younger audience is important to Ingram.
“The Army spent a boatload into training me to be efficient. I would be remiss to not share that with others,” said Ingram.
Ingram served nine tours in Iraq and the United States and was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic actions in combat. He enlisted in the army at 20 years old. His grandfathers inspired him to serve. One of his grandfathers served in World War II, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive campaign in World War II. His other grandfather fought in Vietnam.
Ingram went to Indiana State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology. He later went on to earn a master’s in business and organizational management.
Shortly after graduation he went to basic officer leadership training and eventually joined the Criminal Investigative Division in the Army.
Before he left the Army at the rank of captain, Ingram said he oversaw hundreds and thousands of soldiers. His leadership exercises in the army were very similar to the one he did with the students.
Ingram said he wanted to be more involved with his community after leaving the military, where he served for 13 years.
“That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been 20 years old. Serving our country or our community,” said Ingram.
Ingram currently serves as the president of the Tuscola School Board. Lately, He’s also volunteered his time to help a small veteran-owned business: Baird Built. They create custom fire pits and other metal designs.
Ingram and his family live on a farm right outside Tuscola. His wife Elizabeth runs the Country Learning Center. Children there interact with barn animals like chickens, goats and cows.
Ingram said he supports his wife by keeping the grounds clean, taking care of the animals and making sure the children can interact with them safely. While he doesn’t teach the kids himself, he likes to show up and bring a smile to their faces.
“I’m a teacher at heart,” said Ingram.
As a veteran, Ingram has experienced some harsh conditions during his employment. When he was 24 and just got out of basic training and officer school, he mobilized as a platoon leader with 43 other soldiers. Like many others, he’s had to deal with PTSD and reintegration into civilian life.
“It takes a toll on anybody. Veteran’s Day means a lot because you get that support.”
Ingram said that veterans are people who have put aside their own personal wants and decided to serve their country. Holidays like Veterans Day help give them that recognition when they return home.
East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll introduced several other veterans in the assembly and gave them recognition on Veterans Day.
Marines: Tim Hoey, Sean Conner.
Air Force: Suzanne Rominger, Cassandra Salvator, William Salvator, Jerry Jones, Don Thode, Dave Lecher, Kurt McDaniel, Darold Spillman, Jim Finks, Clayton Harris.
Navy: Jim Beeson, Jack Norman, William B. Devlin Jr., Ryan Cushman, Margie Carter, Nick Carter.
Army National Guard: Jenni Boyd, Marke Hartfield, James Baird.
Army: Lyle McCollum, Tom Bennett, Kyle Walker, Bill Hok, Randy Kalmar, James Baker, Harold Pankau, Paul Wisovaty, Richard Willoughby, Jim Voyles, James Hinds, Brad Ingram, Tony Manzella, Roger Warner, David Walker, Don Rennels, Mark Taylor.